On a Liverpool church billboard in the 1960s, a poster asked passers-by: “What will you do if the Lord comes?”
Beneath the question, someone had written: “Move St John to inside-right.”
On Merseyside, Ian St John was footballing deity, his place in Anfield’s firmament secured by one of the most significant goals in the club’s history.
In fact, supporters of a certain generation, a generation who saw Liverpool in the second tier, will always consider the St John header from an Ian Callaghan cross that clinched the 1965 FA Cup as THE greatest goal.
It was an era when the FA Cup was a holy grail, when Liverpool were not sending out kids teams in the grand, old competition.
It was the pinnacle of a player’s career, a supporter’s dream.
In the 1963/64 season, Liverpool had won their first Division One title in 17 years but had yet to win the FA Cup.
Everton had won it twice.
“Ee-aye-addio, you’ll never win the cup,” was a familiar, taunting refrain.
Liverpool fans who saved up every year to go and see their team win at Wembley joked they would end up millionaires.
St John and Bill Shankly’s team changed all that and laid the foundations for the growth and success over the next half a century.
His manager would go on to describe St John as one of his most important signings but he was also one who nearly got away, only Shankly’s personal intervention heading off a move to Newcastle United.
“Hello, Bill Shankly, Liverpool Football Club. You’re coming to Liverpool,” announced the great man as a 22-year-old St John sat in his Motherwell dressing-room in May of 1961.
The transfer fee was £37,500, a club record, and St John scored a hat-trick on his debut in the Liverpool Senior Cup final.
Everton won that game 4-3 but St John helped Liverpool to the Second Division title in 1962 and the Championship in 1964 and 1966.
A combative inside forward, Shankly said of St John: “Liked a scrap too. Jesus, did he like a scrap.”
St John formed an irresistible partnership with Roger Hunt and scored 118 goals in 425 appearances for the club.
He scored nine in 21 for Scotland.
A temporary fallout with Shankly meant his time at Anfield did not end in pure harmony but he will always be remembered as one of the founding fathers of the club’s twentieth century post-war success.
Of course, more recent generations will remember him from his television career, having formed the double act with Jimmy Greaves after managerial stints with Motherwell and Portsmouth did not quite work out.
His TV personality might have given him a place in popular culture but his place in Anfield folklore had long been secured by the events of May 1, 1965.
Gerry Byrne had broken his collarbone early in the game but carried on because there were no substitutes in those times and set up Hunt for the opener early in extra-time.
Billy Bremner equalised soon after but with three minutes left on the Wembley clock, in front of 100,000 people, Callaghan went on the outside of two tired Leeds defenders and St John’s dive did the rest.
The turnout for the parade in Liverpool was enormous and the local paper’s headline declared: “Ee-aye-addio, the reds have won the cup.”
And for that, Ian St John will always be Liverpool footballing deity.